The 2019 summer transfer window is a seller’s market.
Bloated fees have left clubs at bursting point in their attempts to finance crucial deals as teams seize an opportunity to cash in on their assets with the market so wild.
The result is a change in perception of what is considered cheap and expensive, as €30m has become the new €50m. There have been some standout signings, both over and under priced, though.
First, we look at four overpriced players, and then underpriced, but bear in mind loan deals and free signings aren’t up for consideration in this series.
Joao Felix | €126m | Benfica-Atletico Madrid
A 19-year-old who only broke into Benfica’s first-team during the second-half of 2018/19 doesn’t exactly scream fourth-most expensive player ever.
Atletico have taken a massive financial risk by signing precocious attacker Joao Felix, rerouting the Antoine Griezmann cash into Benfica’s back pocket.
Now, the Portugal international is a supremely gifted young footballer, yet the margin for error in his transfer is enormous.
What is the measure of success for Atleti with an €126 million outlay? Felix either justifies the fee by reaching the same tier occupied by the likes of Kylian Mbappe, or he flops.
He cost more than double what Real Madrid paid for their new young attacker Luka Jovic at €60m and although there are many areas of his game to refine, even if the Serb doesn’t quite become the polished diamond expected, the risk-reward is justifiable.
Plus, Diego Simeone has a mixed record in buying attacking players for his defensive set-up and the conclusion is – albeit with the chance of looking silly should he become the next Cristiano Ronaldo – Felix is overpriced.
Antoine Griezmann | €120m | Atletico Madrid-Barcelona
Two overpriced transfers for the cost of one. Atletico are actually arguing Barcelona shortchanged them of €80m after Antoine Griezmann’s release clause dropped from €200m on July 1.
The Madrid side allege Barca agreed a deal with Griezmann back in March, then waited to conclude proceedings at a discount. Yet €120m, never mind €200m, is still too much for the France striker.
Obviously release clauses dictate price, but Griezmann is 28 years old and for a player so reliant on a high-energy style, two years of guaranteed physical prime seems shortsighted.
Add in Ernesto Valverde’s struggle to crowbar Philippe Coutinho into his set-up last season, the fact Griezmann is at his best in the same zones as Lionel Messi and the logic is clouded.
Granted, Griezmann is extremely clinical, but he also can’t thrive without a genuine No9 meaning he’ll have to play out on the left, taking up the position of the supremely talented Ousmane Dembele.
Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta packaged up the feeling on Griezmann signing saying: “I think that most of the fans don’t want him and also, because of his price tag, which I think is exaggerated.”
Mateo Kovacic | €50m | Real Madrid-Chelsea
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have bought an overpriced player each, meanwhile Real have managed to sell one.
Mateo Kovacic was once billed as the heir to Luka Modric at Los Blancos but the Croatian has struggled to replicate the form he displayed for Inter while in his compatriot’s shadow.
On loan at Chelsea last season, limitations in his game emerged, to the point he was labelled as the Premier League’s most pointless player by FourFourTwo.
Indeed, there might not be another player on the planet with the technical ability of Kovacic who fails to make any impact in the final third.
It’s comical how bad he is at shooting considering the level of talent we’re talking about.
The 25-year-old has scored more than one goal in a single campaign once and that arrived during his best season to date at Inter in 2014/15 when, drum roll please, five goals were struck. Kovacic’s assists tally fares no better either with four the season prior to that his highest mark.
And yet Chelsea, despite the fact Kovacic contributed to just two goals in all competitions in 2018/19, have paid €50m for his services.
He was the only player they could sign before the transfer ban and the cost reflects their desperation.
Mats Hummels | €38m | Bayern Munich-Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund were crying out for the leadership qualities of Mats Hummels during the title run-in last season and so on the face of it, re-signing the German centre-back from Bayern Munich makes a lot of sense.
But Dortmund were forced to shell out a club-record fee to bring the 30-year-old back for virtually the same price Bayern Munich paid when he was 27.
In the intervening years, Hummels has declined to the point where he is now no longer a consideration for the national team and would have been fourth choice had he remained at Bayern.
There are not too many players aged 30-plus in the same price bracket.
Lukasz Piszczek’s injury siphoned the maturity out of Dortmund’s backline and it ultimately cost them, yet other areas of the pitch require more investment, particularly up front with Paco Alcacer their only genuine No9.
Dortmund already own five other centre-backs and so splurging a big amount on Hummels has understandably concerned supporters.
Ironically, the transfer doesn’t even make sense for Bayern either with Jerome Boateng likely staying at the club instead of Hummels and then having to sell him to a direct competitor, too.
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The La Liga champions concluded their pre-season tour of Japan with a comfortable 2-0 win over an Andres Iniesta led Vissel Kobe on Saturday.
Goals from Carles Perez secured the warm-up win and post-match Valverde discussed the impact of his two signings.
On De Jong he said: “Today he played in a different position [than against Chelsea]. He played more as an interior with Sergi Roberto as the holding midfielder.
“We can now try him in both positions. He’s good on the ball and arrives into good positions further forward.
“We are lucky than he can play in both positions and we can rotate him. He offers us a lot of solutions.”
Griezmann has also looked very sharp since making his long-awaited move from Atletico Madrid and Valverde added: “It’s true that some players who are good fit in together easier.
“We will see the relationship socially and at the camp. We are excited for this opportunity.
“We believe in balance in the team, in front or in the back, he moves quick, he passes well, and finds space and this is what we were missing.”
Barcelona reversed their fortunes from a 2-1 loss against Chelsea to defeat Vissel Kobe 2-0 as part of their pre-season preparations in Japan.
A beautiful brace from Carles Perez in the second half sealed the deal for the Catalan giants as they rallied to their first friendly win this summer.
Despite emerging victorious, the performance was lacklustre and raised more questions than it answered. The two games from the Rakuten Cup evidenced that there is a lot of work to be done as Ernesto Valverde builds his squad for the new season.
We take a look at some of the talking points from the friendly.
New signings fit like a glove
New signings Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong have seamlessly fitted into the current structure judging by their performances against Chelsea and Vissel Kobe.
The Frenchman was linking up very well with Nelson Semedo on the right and the Barcelona duo of Riqui Puig and Alex Collado on the left. He took the initiative of building up to the final pass in the absence of Lionel Messi and seemed like a natural being deployed in such a role.
De Jong – contrary to his role against Chelsea – was involved in progressive plays in the No6 position with Sergi Roberto and Monchu Rodriguez falling deep. The Dutchman staged yet another confident show that saw accurate passes, a couple of pin-point through balls and great link-up with his teammates.
Purposeless passing in the limelight again
The major aspect of Barcelona’s game that attracted Valverde a lot of flak was left unaddressed against Vissel Kobe.
The first half was witness to lengthy spells of meaningless possession and purposeless passing. Moments like these are responsible for removing the aesthetic aspect of the game and painting it dull.
The players focused on making plays rather than finishing them off and the lack of progressive play stood out.
In fact, Ivan Rakitic was the only player to come close to scoring and all his shots were taken from distance.
Semedo’s poor decision making when entering the final third halted several attacks and his form is a source of concern.
However, the Catalan side did well to undo this in the second half with De Jong, Malcom and Perez playing a major role.
‘B team’ players outperform seniors
There’s a certain normalcy in B team players outperforming senior players in pre-season games, especially at a club like Barcelona. The youngsters are fuelled by the desire to impress the coach and earn frequent call-ups throughout the season.
But this trend has seemingly reached great heights in recent times and the performance of Collado, Perez stood witness. The latter was dynamic in the first half and created some dangerous situations in the first half. He showed great link-up with Griezmann and Puig, especially in the final third.
Perez was Barcelona’s best player by a mile and both his goals were perfectly taken. With Philippe Coutinho yet to return from his vacation following Brazil’s Copa America triumph, the Spanish winger was allowed the number seven jersey. He went on to stage one of the best performances that the jersey has witnessed over the past season.
Puig had an average game considering his incredibly high standards but he has made a solid case for promotion through both the games in pre-season.
It’s high time Barcelona peered into their talented B team and refrain from blowing up the transfer market.